caper, common name for members of the Capparidaceae, a family of tropical plants found chiefly in the Old World and closely related to the family Cruciferae (mustard family). Capparis spinosa is cultivated in the Mediterranean area for its flower buds—capers—which are pickled and used as a condiment. The spiderflower ( Cleome spinosa ) is a common garden annual. The family also includes a few species indigenous to the United States, e.g., the burro-fat ( Isomeris ), a common desert shrub of the Southwest. The caper family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Capparales.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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